Billion dollar bug

An invasion of the brown marmorated stink bug — the pest discovered recently in three Japanese car shipments — would devastate New Zealand’s fruit, vegetable and wine industries, destroying more than $4 billion of export value and costing thousands of jobs, according to a new report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).

Over 100 of the stink bugs, which originate in Asia but have spread to the US and Europe, were found last week by Ministry of Primary Industries biosecurity staff in three car carriers that arrived at the dock in Auckland.

But this is just the latest disturbing infestation.

Border biosecurity patrols have discovered previously unheard of quantities of the imported beetles over the last two years.

Of course, stink bugs are nothing new in New Zealand. Most gardeners will have come across our native bright green, shield-shaped stink bugs, which suck sap from your vegies and give out a nasty smell when squashed.

These insects, often called shield bugs are pretty harmless. Not so their mottled brown Asian cousins.

A soon-to-be released report commissioned by Horticulture New Zealand from NZIER suggests that if the brown marmorated stink bug becomes established in New Zealand, real GDP could fall by a minimum of $3.6 billion over the next 20 years, and horticultural exports could fall by $4.2 billion a year.

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